198. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

616. Department pass CINCPAC for POLAD.


Secretary’s Message.2

I delivered Secretary’s message to Crown Prince morning 3rd and Prince expressed his appreciation for Secretary’s assurances. He stated Crown had always sought to give Laos a government conscious of dangers confronting country, that new elements had been introduced in present government under pressure of public opinion demanding change and that if this government could pursue its present course of action, it could achieve goals which are “approved by Dulles”.


Possible Government Crisis.

When I asked him whether in his view Phoui government would now weather the current dangers of Assembly opposition, Prince answered if monetary reform implemented on 13th and Assembly recessed on 11th, there would be two days of leeway. He recognized that number of Deputies including Assembly President were seeking to prolong session and stated problem remained essentially one of unity of Rally of Lao [People] which held majority of Assembly seats. He then terminated by saying, however, he “felt certain that if crisis occurred it would not be long” and he hoped “that the situation resulting from such crisis, if it occurred, might actually be an improved one.” When I asked for clarification of this statement, Prince laughed and admitted he intentionally being cryptic. In context it seemed probable [Page 483] to me that his remark could be interpreted as meaning that Prince had reconciled himself to contemplation solution any possible risks in near future by extra-constitutional means.


General Elections.

Prince declared that Crown would always have friendly attitude toward US regardless of future circumstances or developments. He considered it his duty, therefore to advise me re eventual developments as he saw them. With regard to next general elections he stated that Crown had refused to accept postponement of one year as proposed by certain Deputies. He said that politically he did not consider prolongation of Deputies’ mandate would change things, that population was not happy with this Assembly. He then asserted that present Deputies of Rally except for few would not be re-elected. He himself had asked the “young and others” to participate in the next campaign but he mentioned this subject because the “old parties” would ask the Embassy for help. He considered choice of candidates most important because in his view NLHX did not have broad backing in country and could be defeated by appropriate list of candidates. He then stated that “we are not remaining inert in spite all appearances” and that new list of possible candidates was being prepared to try out on people to obtain their reactions.

In answer to my specific question he confirmed that general elections were to be held December 1959 and that new proposed electoral law provided that campaign would start four months before, i.e. August 1959. Prince pointed out that the “national parties” were still powerful and that creation of a single list might prove difficult. He added, however, that before next elections “new parties and rallies” might be organized. What counted, Prince emphasized, was that large victory be gained over NLHX candidates who actually represented only small minority of population. He fully concurred in my suggestion that it was most important that a single list of candidates be picked in time for their names to be popularized. He pointed out, however, that it was difficult for Crown to openly patronize or help select any particular list of candidates. I again expressed to him our high confidence in the accuracy of his judgment and an intense interest in having the advantage of any suggestions or comments he might have to make with regard to the composition of a list of possible candidates. He promised to bear this in mind and remarked that he would always be pleased to see and talk to me. Finally he mentioned that the proposed new electoral law permitted army officers to run for election. He recognized that the introduction of the army into politics raised a serious problem but felt that under present circumstances no method for fighting NLHX could be eliminated.

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Comments: I was struck by complete rejection by the Prince of all but a very few of the Deputies of the Rally, counter-balanced by his warm endorsement of the “new elements” in the government. Without ever mentioning the CDNI, it appeared clear that he was indicating that the committee and its associates, both army and civilian, offer in his opinion the best hope. I was further struck by his evident equanimity in contemplating the possibility of a new government crisis at an early date. It is difficult to understand why he is so confident that a better government from our point of view and his would result from such a crisis and that crisis would be short unless he has accepted the views of certain members CDNI who have always held that only extra-constitutional methods could under present circumstances give country kind of government it needed. I believe that the Prince’s solid backing of the Phoui government and his apparent willingness to see a crisis through is an important factor in present situation, and may be determining element of this government’s continued survival.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–458. Secret. Repeated to London, Saigon, Paris, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh.
  2. See supra.